My husband grew up in the mountains, so donning his essential hiking gear and heading to nearby mountain trails for a mind-clearing hike has always been one of his favorite activities. While I like to hike, I always described myself as more of an outdoorsy type when it involved sand, ocean, and sea life.
And, honestly, I am scarred by the straight-up hike up a ski slope we did many years ago.
But recent events with most of us spending significant time indoors, and worse – online – has created a newfound passion for our family to find family hiking as a fantastic new activity. And, as a result, finding essential hiking gear for our entire family was important and necessary to make this one of our options to get out, change our scenery, and enjoy some fresh air.
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The Most Essential Hiking Gear For Worry-Free Family Hiking
This summer, instead of our usual vacation we opted for a 2500 mile road trip that included visits to four U.S. National Parks. Included in our plans were several, kid-friendly hikes with some of the most breathtaking scenery we have ever seen.
Because of the nature of where we were headed – this was some serious family hiking that included eight miles of trails – finding and packing essential kids hiking gear for the trip was important. It took some time to find it all.
So, here you will find the most essential hiking gear for stress-free, worry-free family hiking for your next family hiking adventure.
Why Family Hiking Is A Great Family Activity
Ok, well let's be honest. Up until recently, I would have “pooh-poohed” family hiking for our kids because we didn't have proper kids' hiking gear.
I assumed – incorrectly – our city kids would not appreciate the quiet of nature, the beautiful scenery, wearing kids' hiking packs, kids' hiking boots, or the exercise. I didn't realize our kids would be up for seven or eight miles of all-day hiking.
Boy, was I wrong! Hiking is a fantastic family activity. Here's why:
Family Hiking Is Family Time
In this time of virtual this, and online that, it is easy to get sucked into hours of endless time staring into screens. Family hiking gets you out of the house, out in nature, doing something together as a family.
The experiences we had on our recent hikes extended beyond the incredible views and scenery. Some of the animals we have seen on our adventures – like the moose drinking water, the mountain goat staring at us, or the bear in the river having a bath – are unforgettable and ones only our family can appreciate from seeing them together.
The time spent on the hikes was time for bonding and catching up, enjoying each other.
Kids Are Capable And Feel Accomplished
Our family hiking adventure included both seven and eight-mile hikes in Glacier National Park, that our kids rocked like they'd been hiking all of their life. Even though the hikes were long, they were all very kid-friendly hikes.
Our kids LOVED their lightweight kids' hiking packs with their own essential supplies. And they completely appreciated the incredible views, the animals we saw along the way, and the special family time – even enjoying their lunch on a rock.
THEY felt accomplished and realized they loved hiking and can do more than they think. And, they had a great time outdoors where no screens can be found!
Family Hiking Allows You To See Unique Things
Our kids were able to see unique animals in Glacier and Yellowstone National Park, incredible canyons in Canyonland National Park, and climb up to see some breathtaking arches in Arches National Park. We learned about different trees and berries and heard a wolf howling.
All thanks to family hiking.
We are STILL talking about the goat, marmot, moose, and bear we saw on our hiking days! And, we created amazing family memories.
Family Hiking Is A Great Vacation Activity
Now that we have the right kids hiking gear, we can find kid-friendly hikes on any future vacation or even locally within our own area for a weekend activity. When we travel to Hawaii, go to Vermont, travel to France or Switzerland, we can locate kid-friendly hiking trails as another way to experience the location. It definitely adds more adventure to our family vacations.
The Essential Hiking Gear Checklist For Family Hiking
Now that you are ready for your next family hiking adventure, here is the essential hiking gear checklist. My favorite products for clothing, adult and kids' hiking books, kids' hiking packs, and more are included below.
This comprehensive list will give you everything you need no matter if you are planning a short mini kid-friendly hike or a more enhanced family hiking vacation.
⇓ Want The Essential Hiking Checklist For Packing? You Can Get It Below! ⇓
Essential Adult and Kids Hiking Gear: Clothing
Because weather changes on mountains, layers are essential. It can be cold in the morning, hot in the afternoon, and cold at the top. Having convertible and flexible clothing options is essential.
Convertible hiking pants are very useful because you can start the morning with pants and shift to shorts – or go back to pants – simply by unzipping. Finding the best hiking pants for women, men, and kids may take a bit of research.
I especially like ones that are sweat-wicking and dry easier. Here are my favorites for all members of the family.
Sweat Wicking Short Sleeve
- Men's Sweat Wicking Short Sleeve
- Women's Sweat Wicking Short Sleeve
- Boy's Sweat Wicking Short Sleeve
- Girls Sweat Wicking Short Sleeve
Sweat Wicking Long Sleeve
- Men's Sweat Wicking Long Sleeve
- Women's Sweat Wicking Long Sleeve
- Boys' Sweat Wicking Long Sleeve
- Girls Sweat Wicking Long Sleeve
Fleece Layer For Hiking
Light Packable Rain Jacket
Warmer Jacket For Chili Mornings
- Women's Light Down Packable Puffer Jacket
- Men Light Down Packable Puffer Jacket
- Boys Light Down Packable Puffer Jacket
- Girls Light Down Packable Puffer Jacket
Hiking Boots For Kids and Adults
Having the right footwear is essential for hiking. Hiking boots for kids and adults can protect ankles from twisting, ensure you have sure footing on slippery surfaces, and overall make your feet more comfortable from all of the miles of walking. These are my favorites.
Hiking Boots For Kids
Hiking Boots For Men and Women
- Men's Ecco Xpedition Mid Cut Hiking Boot
- Women's Ecco Exohike Goretex Hiking Boot
- Columbia Men's Ridge Hiking Boot
- Columbia Women's Ridge Hiking Boot
Hiking Pack For Kids and Adults
Because you will have needs for water and food along the way, and definitely should always bring plenty just in case, you will need a light hiking pack. Not just any old backpack will do. You need something lightweight, that can accommodate your water bottles, food, and all of your layers for when you need to add or remove. You also need to bring along some safety items. These are my favorite hiking packs for kids and adults.
Additional Hiking Essentials You May Need
Waterbottles For Family Hiking
Making sure you have enough water is critical, so water bottles are essential hiking gear. Hydration is very important when hiking.
And, on one of our longer hikes, our hiking guide had to use her water filter to get additional water from a waterfall. You don't want to just drink unfiltered water because it could contain contaminants that make you sick. Ideally, you should bring enough drinking water to not need a filter, but just in case, an additional filter is a good idea. Here are my favorites:
Lunch Boxes For Hiking
You definitely need food when hiking. If you want to bring a lunch box, here are a few of my favorites.
Additional Safety Hiking Gear You May Need
Depending on the types of hiking you are doing and where you are doing it, and whether or not you have a hiking guide, here are some additional essential hiking gear items you may consider bringing. I always recommend binoculars, because you never know what you might see on your hike!
This past summer, we saw a bear and a moose from afar during our hike in Glacier National Park. Having good binoculars was essential for being able to not miss out on the moment! Check out the best-reviewed binoculars and other essential hiking gear you may want to pack below.
- Bear Spray
- Walking Sticks
- Camera (or Phone)
- Phone Charger
- Survival Kit
- Waterproof Matches
- Sun Cream
- Bug Spray
- Toilet Paper
- Mini shovel
- Trash Bag
Final Thought About Essential Hiking Gear For Worry-Free Family Hiking
With the right gear for all family members, you can enjoy a really fun, special family hiking experience. Every hike is different, and the adventures along the way create lasting family memories.
Hiking gear can make great gifts, especially for friends and family who love to hike or for new hikers who need to build their collection. Most importantly, with the right family hiking gear, you can worry less about the necessities and spend more time just enjoying the time together as a family.